Jim Meehan will be making g&ts for Jimmy Fallon
© Max's Wine Dive
Fried Chicken and Champagne at Max's Wine Dive.
It’s frigid here in New York City, and with the long holiday weekend ahead, I plan on holing up and cooking my favorite comfort foods, drinking some great wines and watching a lot of college football. I recently heard about a new wine bar in Texas that combines all three things. Max’s Wine Dive opened in May in downtown Austin with the philosophy of "Fried chicken and champagne? Why the hell not?!"
With its local team, the University of Texas Longhorns, playing for the national championship on January 7, the bar should be packed with fans eating not just fried chicken with Champagne but kobe burgers with Cabernet and oyster nachos with premier cru Burgundy.
Until I find my own NYC version of Max’s, I’ll be replicating their comfort-food-and-wine pairings with ideas from Food & Wine.
Midtown Manhattan this time of year is one of the more frenetic places one can find oneself, but I've found an excellent escape hatch. Go to the I. M. Pei-designed Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street, go through the revolving doors, up the stairs, to the right, and you'll find yourself at the hotel's new Garden Wine Bar. It's an oddly serene space—you know you're in a hotel, but because the wine bar is elevated above the main entrance, the main thing you perceive are the enormously high ceilings of the marble-pillared lobby and the leafy branches of the trees that decorate the bar; what you don't perceive is the bustle of people entering and leaving the hotel.
That would be nice but not worth a mention except that the Garden also has a terrific wine list, with almost all of the 200 selections available by the glass or by the bottle. A few examples: at the low end, a crisp 2007 Pra Soave Classico ($12 glass/$48 bottle); in the high-middle range, Slovenian cult producer Movia's fantastic 2003 Veliko Bianco ($25 glass/$97 bottle); and at the truly high end, a gorgeous 2006 J. M. Boillot Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Canet ($40 glass/$150 bottle). Also, unfinished by-the-glass bottles are passed along to other venues in the hotel, which means that once something is opened, it's effectively guaranteed to be poured through within a day or so, an important consideration when you're talking about $40-a-glass wines.
Admittedly, those prices aren't bargain basement, but this is the Four Seasons, hardly known for a bargain basement sensibility. Throw in impressive cheese and charcuterie offerings—including some terrific, spicy Nduja from Boccalone in San Francisco—as well as a good small plates menu, and you've got an ideal place to take a vinous break before heading out into the maelstrom of last-minute shopping again.
The Garden Wine Bar
Four Seasons Hotel
57 West 57th Street
New York, NY
The dining room at Domenica, John Besh's new restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel.
I just made my first trip to New Orleans and after canvassing friends, chefs and cocktail experts plotted an epic eating and drinking itinerary. This is one city where classic spots rival—maybe even one-up—new places. Some highlights:
Saturday afternoon: Shrimp and oyster po’boys (dressed, of course) at Mahony’s, a new favorite of F&W Best New Chef 1999 John Besh.
Late afternoon: Historical cocktail crawl through the French Quarter with stops at Muriels, Old Absinthe House, the bar at Antoine’s and Pat O’Briens (for the essential Hurricane).
Evening: Dinner at Domenica, John Besh’s stylish new Italian restaurant in the recently renovated Roosevelt Hotel. Besh protégé Alon Shaya oversees the kitchen and is a talent to watch. On the menu: crispy-thin, bubbly-crusted pizzas; a salad of thinly shaved tentacles of octopus carpaccio mixed with citrus and fennel; torn sheets of pasta (stracci) in a thick oxtail gravy with fried chicken livers; slow-roasted goat with chanterelles.
Post-dinner: Pre-night-out Sazerac at the Roosevelt’s legendary Sazerac Bar.
Late-night: The Cure is a much-buzzed-about cocktail spot uptown in a renovated 1905 firehouse. Co-owner and head mixologist Neal Bodenheimer opened the place in February and makes everything from the bitters to the cocktail cherries in-house. Bar Tonique lies on the outer edges of the French Quarter on Rampart Street. Bodenheimer also developed the cocktail list for this serious drink spot run by the crew of the Delachaise. It has a quieter vibe than The Cure, but equally excellent artisanal cocktails like the Champagne Cocktail, made with grapefruit bitters.
Super, super late-night: Mimi’s for live music, a night-ending pint of Abita Purple Haze and some tapas-style bar snacks including the "Trust Me”—that night, local braised lamb in gravy.
Even for me, it was too early to start drinking cocktails at lunch yesterday at David Chang's Má Pêche, temporarily located in the lounge of the Chambers Hotel in midtown Manhattan (sometime this winter, it will move to a permanent home in the former Town space). I couldn't have had one, anyway: Don Lee doesn't start serving his ridiculously good cocktails until 5 p.m., when the hostess stand turns into a bar. On the just-now-official drinks menu, Lee has installed classics like Dark & Stormys, Manhattans and Negronis, as well as ingenious items like the Sesame Old-Fashioned, made with toasted-sesame-infused Cognac, and my new favorite, the sake-based 7 Spice Sour, flavored with togarashi, the Japanese seven-spice powder (lucky me, I got to preview it when Lee was testing it out at Ssäm Bar).
© Wanderplay Studio
The design of Bar Pleiades is a nod to Coco Chanel and the lines of a '30s Art Deco bar cart.
New York City’s Upper East Side finally has a serious cocktail spot. Last Thursday, prolific restaurateur Daniel Boulud’s newest project, Bar Pleiades, opened with a cocktail program run by mixologist Cameron Bogue (formerly at DB Bistro Moderne’s Vancouver outpost). The bar is part of the $60 million dollar makeover of the historic Surrey hotel, which will reopen in November. Like the menus at the recently reimagined Café Boulud next door, Bogue’s cocktails are inspired by la tradition (classic French cuisine), la saison (seasonality), le potager (the vegetable garden) and le voyage (global flavors). Bogue makes everything from the rhubarb bitters in his Sloe Gin Fizz to the fermented ginger beer that gets mixed with saffron-roasted pear vodka and yuzu for his Beijing Mule—an ode to his recent motorcycle voyage across Asia.
© Jennifer Salerno
Kurt Gutenbrunner ringing the bell at the Standard Beer Garden.
Wearing lederhosen in honor of Oktoberfest and a jean jacket personally given to him by the fashion designer Helmut Lang, Kurt Gutenbrunner (The Upholstery Store, Café Sabarsky, Blaue Gans and Michelin-starred Wallsé) handed out huge rock-salt-encrusted pretzels baked by Amy's Bread to trendy New Yorkers and taught me the proper way to eat a weisswurst (peel off the skin, dip in sweet mustard and devour with or without utensils).
Gutenbrunner rang a bell behind the beer garden's sausage bar throughout the night ("In Germany we ring the bell to call people to eat," he said). But he was upstaged by a German street-cart favorite called curry wurst: a juicy grilled bratwurst topped with ketchup and curry powder and served in a bun on a bed of sauerkraut.
Hotelier André Balazs gave Gutenbrunner carte blanche to select the garden's Schaller & Weber sausages and German beers (the chef's favorite is the Bitburger Pils, which he describes as "a golden beer that tastes like Champagne, a slight bit of lemon and a touch of banana"). Balazs even named a sausage on the menu after the chef: the Cheddar "Kurt"wurst–a bratwurst oozing with the creamy cheese.
"I've never met anyone with a bigger vision than André, or anyone who cares so much about making the beer garden experience here as authentic as possible," said Gutenbrunner before leading patrons in a chant of a Bavarian drinking song that loosely translates to "One More Beer."
Here are 7 more amazing sausage recipes from the F&W archives, perfect for any Oktoberfest celebration.
© Alessandra Bulow
Mary-Kate & Ashley working hard for their money.
Later that night, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen served watermelon-and-candied-ginger martinis to a packed room of crazed fans in an effort to promote their clothing lines Elizabeth & James and The Row. A few minutes into the service, Ashley said, "Is there music?" and the staff turned on some beats. Any good bar patron knows that you should always tip the bartender, so I dropped a dollar on the bar (a move that confused Mary-Kate and made it into the next day's paper). After all, leaving a tip never goes out of style–even if it's for a couple of billionaires.
© Alessandra Bulow